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MPs oppose gov’t move to charge for COVID-19 tests

Covid-19 sample containers. Photo By Julius Ocungi

Kampala,  Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | A section of Members of Parliament has disagreed with a move by the government to start charging for COVOD-19 tests effective today, September 1.  

The Ministry of Health indicated last week that truck drivers, people in need of knowing their COVID-19 status, government and public organisations, Ugandans returning from abroad, and visitors from other countries will all be mandated to pay a fee of 240,500 Shillings for tests to be carried out.

According to the Ministry, all people who need to carry out tests in government testing facilities will be expected to deposit the money into a COVID-19 account that has been set up, in a move aimed at reducing the high cost that the government is incurring to carry out testing for various groups.

The fee, according to Geoffrey Seremba, the undersecretary at the Ministry of Health, is a cost recovery mechanism that will enable the health ministry to acquire more test kits for continued access to testing services in the country. He said that they have had many requests from organisations to have their staff tested amidst inadequate involuntary stocks of test kits, resource constraints and high cost of testing.

However, Busiro East MP Medard Lubega Sseggona says that it is not a good move for the government to commercialise the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. He fears that the act could result in a spike in infections since those with no money will never present themselves for testing, and at the same time stay in the communities. 

Mukono South MP Johnson Muyanja Ssenyonga also argues that the set fee is very high considering the status of many Ugandans who currently cannot even afford food. 

Hilary Lokwang, the Ik County MP and Gulu Municipality MP Lyandro Komakech suggested that the government continues shouldering the bill to save the millions of Ugandans whose lives are risked when those infected with COVIID-19 are not withdrawn from the communities.  

Bukomansimbi North MP Ruth Katushabe also noted that the set fee is very high for Ugandans. She suggested that the fee is reduced to enable many Ugandans to carry out the test and that the vulnerable groups should be tested at no cost.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health says that those who would want to go to private testing laboratories can also access the test at Lancet, MBN or Medipal International Hospital at an average fee of 300,000 Shillings.

The changes come at a time when the country is experiencing a daily increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. According to the health ministry, 4000 tests equivalent to  962 million Shillings are carried out daily.

 

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